Archive for Friday, February 17, 2012

Development leader, city leader offer 2012 business predictions

February 17, 2012


A leader of the largest group working to attract new businesses to the Kansas City area told a Lawrence crowd Thursday that he expects to see positive signs in 2012.

At an event sponsored by the KU Credit Union, Tim Cowden, senior vice president of the Kansas City Area Development Council, and City Commissioner Mike Dever offered predictions on economic development issues for the coming year.

Here’s a look, first from Cowden:

• Expect U.S. manufacturing to gain some strength. The big term in the manufacturing sector is “reshoring,” as opposed to offshoring, Cowden said. He said several national economic development leaders are predicting companies that have offshored their work may now be rethinking those decisions. There are wage inflation pressures in China and India, Cowden noted, that may change the cost equations for those companies.

• Expect growth in information technology jobs. Kansas City already has received a commitment from NetSmart Technologies to move its headquarters from New York to the Kansas City area. NetSmart will produce 500 jobs for the area and is expected to announce where it will land specifically in the Kansas City metro area in the next few days, Cowden said. In addition, KCADC is in discussions with another company that would add 700 IT jobs to the region.

• Be open to warehouses. During the economic downturn, companies have allowed their logistics systems to become stretched thin. Now, Cowden said, hope of increased consumer confidence has them expanding their delivery systems. KCADC currently is in discussions with three potential warehouse-type projects: one that would need 250,000 square feet of space, another 500,000 square feet and one that would need about 2 million square feet of space.

“I know there are areas that don’t want warehouses, but it really is a big deal for Kansas City,” Cowden said.

From Dever:

• An increased emphasis on city planning. Dever said he still thinks the city needs to fight the perception that its development process is too difficult.

• Continued cooperation with Kansas University. Dever cited the bioscience and technology incubator, which is now completely filled, as an example of how the university and economic development leaders can work together.

• Increased activity at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant. The city intends to convert the more than 400 acres at the site into a business and industrial park. Planning and some infrastructure construction is expected to begin this year on the property, which suffered from years of nitrogen fertilizer contamination.

“I know there are people who really questioned why we would take on this piece of property,” Dever said. “But I can tell you as an environmental consultant, I think it will end up being one of the best investments this community ever makes. I think that site is going to be a real windfall for the community.”

About 40 community and business leaders attended the Thursday morning event at the Lied Center.


Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Economy In Crisis

Collapsing Infrastructure Published 06/19/09 Craig Harrington

America’s infrastructure is falling apart. Roads and bridges are in disrepair, the electrical grid is far behind, and our ability to manufacture goods or produce electricity is far behind the standards of other developed economies. Much of this is because the United States focused so much of its efforts over the past several decades on building up the consumer economy to the detriment of every other sector.

There is no doubting that the United States has become an almost purely consumer driven economy. Our citizens purchase more goods and services than any other people in the world. Our economy derives more of its growth from consumption than any other nation, and our growing annual trade deficits are a testament to that fact.

Now however even our consumer infrastructure is falling apart. According to a posting on, the United States has roughly six times more retail space than any other nation. Shopping malls and big-box stores were built to soak up the consumption dollars of Americans eager to buy as much as possible. Now, with the economy in turmoil and disposable income dwindling, those stores lay empty in barren shopping centers around the country.

This is the primary reason that the government and corporate media have trumpeted the so-called “recovery” for so long. Their hope is to convince Americans to get back out into the shopping malls and start purchasing goods again.

But after decades of spending hard earned money on foreign-made goods there is simply nothing left in American coffers to spend on frivolous novelties. The once bustling shops are now dormant.

A recent article in The New York Times has highlighted the fact that America simply has too much retail space. When not filled with shoppers these spaces are completely useless to society.

The article discusses the possibility of retrofitting these spaces into something useful like schools, libraries, community centers, etc.

The idea of changing the retail landscape into something more purposeful is championed in the book Retrofitting Suburbia by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson. It has many suggestions like those previously mentioned, but it notes the difficulties in such changes. These locations are often stuck in long-term lease agreements, making them difficult to convert even when abandoned.

If the U.S. were to lead a drive to remake empty retail spaces, and revive collapsing urban infrastructure, it could create jobs and growth opportunities for years to come. At some point the U.S will have to be “redesigned” in one way or another, and there is no better time to start than now.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

America is Over Stored

America Is Over Stored ( Do Lawrence,Kansas planners,Chamber of Commerce and city government not realize this?)

The Wall Street bankers boom town economics building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space. But the occupants haven't materialized.

The carnage in retail hasn't been this bad since an anarchist bombed Chicago's Haymarket Square in 1886. In January, Liz Claiborne said it would shutter 54 Sigrid Olsen stores by mid-2008; Ann Taylor announced that 117 of its 921 stores would be closed over the next three years, and Talbots axed the Talbots Men's and Talbots Kids concepts and 22 Talbots stores. Even Starbucks has scaled back its yearlong saturation-bombing campaign.

But back out inflation and sales of gasoline, and retail sales fell in real terms in the past year. Clearly, demand is down.

And supply is up. This decade's building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space—from McStrip malls built near new McMansions, to hip new boutiques in the ground floors of hip new Miami condo buildings. But as is the case with those McMansions and condos, the occupants for new retail space haven't materialized.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the national retail-vacancy rate rose for the 11th straight quarter to 7.5 percent—the highest level since 1996, according to research firm Reis, Inc.

With new projects coming online—34 million square feet of retail space will be completed in 2008—the rate is expected to spike further to 8 percent. In the parlance of the trade, many chains are simply over-stored.


BruceWayne 6 years, 4 months ago

And more fake grass, right Dever? Still "not sounding any alarms" are we ? I am surprised Dever didn't hire a consultant to help him with his answers here. You are a joke man, as is that hopeless puppet Core-less. We should have voted for Svombie.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

With all due respect Tim Cowden is not aware how over built Lawrence,Kansas is and has been for several years.

The only people who claim Lawrence is too difficult are the voices that over built Lawrence. The cry " Lawrence is too difficult" is their tool to intimidate city hall,city commission and the county commission which seems to be effective.

Lawrence is the most expensive community in Kansas to live and many downtown retail/rents are beyond reality. Buyers pay too much money for property then think high dollar rent is the rule of thumb = wreckanomics.

Lawrence,Kansas is not Kansas City,Mo. Lawrence,Kansas is not Boulder,Colorado

Both communities pay better wages.

Both communities are likely better managed and are not run by the housing/retail/development industry aka our local Chamber of NO Commerce. Our local chamber is a political action committee for the building industry and basically serves that minority.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence needs to become among the many many many communities that house the economic development growth team in City Hall. Fill those positions with experience then place a sign on the door "Employees Only No Special Interests Allowed".

Instead of paying the Chamber more than $200,000 tax dollars a year Lawrence should use that money to build an economic growth team in City Hall. Until this change takes place it will remain business as usual aka economic displacement.

scaramouchepart2 6 years, 4 months ago

If the City Commission is going to go after jobs that do not pay well enough for the employees to actually live in town as the warehouse jobs- ok. But at another meeting a few weeks later we better not hear the city commission crying about how we want to keep local money in town and not being spent out of town. We need jobs that fit the job skill levels of most of the residents of Lawrence. Yes we do need warehouses in Lawrence, but for the last few years under Beth Johnson the Chamber has only been fighting for warehouse jobs, part time jobs, part time hotel jobs and wait staff jobs for the residents of Lawrence or actually for the land owners. The bioscience jobs took a lot of work from the community and KU to get it supported. The city pays the chamber to help Lawrence with economic development. We should be concerned that the chamber is only helping a few developers who are only looking at low paying jobs using your tax dollars.

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